Writer Kurtis Wiebe and artist Max Dunbar discuss their new Gears of War comic, The Rise of RAAM

When General RAAM died at the end of the original Gears of War, his friends and family undoubtedly thought they would never see him again. But now he's is making a comeback of sorts with Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM, a four issue, monthly comic book series being published by IDW, who will also reissue the previous Gears comics starting this November with the Gears of War Omnibus: Volume 1.

To find out more about RAAM's return, we spoke to writer Kurtis Wiebe and artist Max Dunbar about how they landed this gig, what inspired it, and what role the good people at The Coalition, who make the Gears games now, had in developing this story.

GameCrate: How familiar were you with the Gears of War games before you signed on to do this comic?

Kurtis Wiebe: I'd played the first game and it kicked my ass. I remember it took me ten tries to get out of the first encounter with the Locust. One of my favorite scenes in the first game was the reveal of RAAM. That character always stuck with me, and I think that's why I wanted to work with that character in particular.

Max Dunbar: I had never played them, but I had an art book that featured the character models, and I had always loved the look of the game.

GC: And how did you guys get this gig? Because you previously worked together on Rat Queens, and that's a very different comic from Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM.

MD: That's a good question. Kurtis recommended me, and I had done a few things for IDW before, so both parties had faith that I could adjust my style to fit the book.

KW: I've been friends with The Coalition's Rod Fergusson for a few years. He'd been a fan of Rat Queens, so we'd met up a few times for lunch and he'd expressed interest in doing some new Gears comics.

So what is Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM about, and when is it set in relation to the games, the other comics, and the novels?

KW: It takes place before E-day, focusing on the events leading up to the eventual surface invasion. We are going to be telling the story about how RAAM was involved with the plotting of the attack, and specifically why he was instrumental in making it happen.

Where did the idea for the comic come from?

KW: It was a concept that came out of a few calls with Rod. There was a feeling that it was important to come back to the comic medium with familiar characters, and the obvious choice would've been some new stories featuring Marcus Fenix. But after tossing a few ideas back and forth, I pitched the idea of telling a story from the Locust perspective, and as we talked further, it became evident pretty quick that RAAM was both familiar and interesting.

RAAM didn't talk a lot in the games. In fact, none of the Locust did. They mostly just said stuff like, "For the Queen!" What went into deciding how RAAM and the other Locust would speak?

KW: That was actually one of the hardest parts of scripting this series. Cadence is difficult to fabricate, you have to try to make it sound different enough from human speech, but not so alien that readers would get lost with your meaning.

I like what the writers in the Spartacus TV series did with language. It was just a slightly odd spin on the way we speak now and it totally worked, so there was some inspiration from there, for sure.

Now Max, you said you had not played the games. So what drew you to this comic?

MD: I love the genre for one. I had yet to do a war comic, and a sci-fi war comic from the monster's perspective just sounded so cool.

Obviously, the character designs and other elements come from the way things looked in the games, but are there any other major influences on what you drew for this comic?

MD: The majority of the designs are either direct from the game, or heavily inspired by the character and environment art from the game. But for the few areas that had to be totally unique and stand alone, I gathered a lot of reference of cave systems, H.R Giger's work, and ancient temple ruins from around the globe.

Kurtis, did Max ever do anything with the art, or suggest anything, that prompted you to make a change in the story?

KW: It was more inspirational. When I saw what he could do with those early pages in the first issue, I felt like I could let loose and go wild with ideas and know with confidence it would be better than anything I'd imagined. And that inspiration just grew with each issue. This is Max's best work to date, and really proves that huge talent that he is.

Similarly, Max, did Kurtis make any substantive suggestions for the art?

MD: Kurtis writes his scripts in a really descriptive, exciting way, with a lot of visual language that makes me excited to draw. A lot of times, the environments and actions are really easy to picture, so I take all of that as a substantive suggestion and direction on how to draw the page. Kurtis is also really good about allowing me to make changes if I think it helps the pacing or storytelling.

Obviously, you guys worked closely with the people at The Coalition. What was the biggest impact they had on the story?

KW: Honestly, they have been really amazing to work with. They've given me so much freedom that it doesn't feel like a licensed book. It feels like my own pet project, which is so rare when working on pre-established IPs. They've been on hand for any questions I have, and their feedback on my scripts have led to changes I think make the book stronger overall.

Given that Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM is set during the original Gears trilogy, which was made by different people, did you also consult with any of them, such as Cliff Bleszinski?

KW: No.

Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM is, of course, a limited series. But has there been any talk of doing more Gears of War comics, and if so, will you be involved?

KW: There has been talk, and I originally envisioned this as a 3-part, 12 issue total story. They're stand-alone stories but are connected in a pretty interesting way.

Finally, if you had carte blanche, and could do a comic based on any video game series, what would you chose and why?

KW: Dark Souls. I love bleak worlds with giant monsters and a sole savior that stands against the darkness.

MD: It's super hard to pick just one, but I'd love to do a Dark Souls comic, too.

Issue #1 of Gears of War: The Rise of RAAM will be available January 24, issue #2 will be out in February, issue #3 in March, and issue #4 in April, with the collected edition slated for June. But all, obviously, are subject to change.